Stay safe all summer long with Dr. Colin Looney

Originally published in the Williamson Herald

Dr. Colin Looney offers advice on avoiding summer activity-related injuries

Tennessee summers provide the perfect landscape for all kinds of outdoor activities. Whether you’re loading up the boat or the bikes, hitting the lake or the trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. But with a new season of activities comes a new set of environmental factors. Without the proper safety precautions, a fun day outside can quickly turn into a trip to the hospital. 

Using his experience as a lifelong outdoorsman, Dr. Colin Looney, an orthopedic surgeon at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, reminds us to stay safe as we create new summer memories. 

“As the seasons transition from winter to summer, we see a new set of injury patterns,” said Dr. Looney. “This time of year, a lot of our patients suffer from recreational or environmental injuries.”

Some of the most common injuries include proximal hamstring tears from water skiing, clavicle and shoulder fractures associated with mountain biking, and even quad tears and injured ACLs from simple tasks like yardwork. 

“You don’t have to be doing extreme sports to get injured,” said Dr. Looney. “It’s important to be cautious of the terrain even in your own backyard to avoid slips and falls or twisting an ankle.”

The best ways to stay safe and lower your risk of injury are knowing your environment, making smart decisions and staying active all year long. 

“Being aware of your environment and equipment can go a long way in terms of safety,” said Dr. Looney. “If you’re going to be on a boat, make sure you know the water and take classes to understand boat safety and operating techniques.” 

Additionally, Dr. Looney stresses the importance of wearing the proper protective gear such as helmets and pads when mountain biking or rock climbing or donning a life jacket when you’re spending a day on the water. 

Even with the right equipment, it is important to make smart decisions to reduce the risk of an accident. 

“Save the cocktail for when you’re back on dry land,” said Dr. Looney. “Mixing alcohol with recreational activities can impair your judgment and lead to injury.”

As fun as it may seem, avoid jumping or diving into unfamiliar water. The water can conceal shallow rocks and distort the depth. Even entering the water at the wrong angle can cause cervical spine (neck) injuries. 

Being as prepared as possible for all the summer activities can help you in the long run. People suffer unnecessary injuries during the summer because they are not conditioned for that level of activity.

“I always tell people to make it a part of your routine to walk or do some type of movement all year long,” said Dr. Looney. “Cardiovascular exercise puts new stresses on the body, and you can protect yourself by staying physically fit.”

If you do experience an injury, do not hesitate to get evaluated by the providers at Bone and Joint Institute. Although some minor bumps and bruises can be treated at home, patients experiencing deformity, weakness, numbness or inability to bear weight should seek medical attention. 

Dr. Looney said about a third of the patients he sees during the summer for recreational injuries require surgery. Those types of injuries include quad or hamstring tears and bicep injuries. However, many injuries can be treated with rehabilitation. The experienced physical and occupational therapists at Bone and Joint Institute can customize a personalized nonsurgical treatment plan and get you back to enjoying your favorite activities faster than you think. 

“In Tennessee, we are fortunate to have waterfalls, rock quarries, rope swings and mountains, and every year, we see catastrophic injuries that could have been avoided,” said Dr. Looney. “Get outside and explore, but remember to be smart and be aware of your environment.”